Saturday, October 28, 2017

Women Camouflage Artists Coming to Sioux City

Exhibition Banner © Roy R. Behrens 2017
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – HIDDEN FIGURES: The Untold Story of Women’s Role in Camouflage, an exhibition curated by Roy R. Behrens, will open at noon, on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2017 at the Betty Strong Encounter Center. Admission will be free.

The exhibition comprises 40 US government photographs of American women engaged in camouflage activities during World War I. Captions and text panels offer rich context for women’s contribution to camouflage development after the United States entered the war in 1917. It will serve as a featured attraction during the Center’s 2018 school tour season. The exhibition will run through Memorial Day, June 3, 2018.

The story begins with US Navy women stationed in the continental United States, France, Guam and Hawaii during WWI who were formally known as “Yeomen (F).” Informally, they were called “Yeomanettes” or “Yeowomen,” according to Behrens, Professor of Art/Graphic Design and Distinguished Scholar at University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls.

“They served primarily as clerical staff, but also as radio operators, electricians, draftsmen, pharmacists, photographers, telegraphers, fingerprint experts, chemists, torpedo assemblers and camouflage artists,” says Behrens who has published books and articles on art and camouflage since the 1970s.

The US Naval Reserve Act of 1916 opened the door for women to enlist in the Navy during WWI when the demand for military personnel exceeded the number of available American men.

“This decision enabled the enlistment of the first female sailors in the US Naval Reserve, among them a small number of African-American women, the first to be allowed to serve in any of the American armed forces,” says Behrens.

The exhibition’s images were drawn from Library of Congress collections (LOC Prints and Photographs) and the National Archives and Research Administration (NARA).

Behrens’ exhibition images are enlarged, high-resolution laser prints, digitally modified to remove dust and scratches and adjust exposure flaws.

Among Behrens’ recently published books are: SHIP SHAPE: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook (2011); and FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT AND MASON CITY: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (2016).

Behrens often has appeared in interviews on radio; television; in educational films, including NOVA on PBS; and in the recently broadcast Australian documentary, DECEPTION BY DESIGN: The Hidden Story of Camouflage (2015).

Behrens’ blog ( on camouflage has been called “the most important online resource for anyone interested in the subject.”

Article from Boston Sunday Post, August 4, 1918

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Parades of Dazzle Camouflaged Floats

Ship Camouflage on Parade Float (c1918)
Above In the closing years of World War I, the American public's interest in camouflage (especially dazzle camouflage) was all but boundless. Examples of camouflage were included in nearly every parade, such as this float that features a dazzle-painted ship (as seen from the rear), surrounded by waves of papier maché. See also other photographs of camouflage-themed parade floats, as noted in an earlier post. We've since found descriptions of others.


CITY TANK IN LOAN PARADE in The Tacoma Times (Tacoma WA), April 6, 1918, p. 8—

One of the novel features of Saturday's Liberty Parade was a miniature "tank" furnished by the city streets department. The tank was built from a new caterpillar tractor just purchased by the city. Although the caterpillar tread of the city machine does not go over the top of the body, as it does in the battle tanks, the machine was camouflaged by scenic designers so that it bore a startling resemblance to the new war terrors. It was armed with a half dozen fierce-looking guns. Commissioner [of Public Works Charles D.] Atkins announced that he would guide the city tank through the streets.


CAMOUFLAGED TANKS PARADE ST. LOUIS in the Oklahoma City Times, April 10, 1919, p. 4—

St. Louis, April 10—Twenty camouflaged tanks, similar to those used at the front, paraded through the business section today as part of a reception in honor of Major General Leonard Wood, commander of the central department of the army, who is in St, Louis in the interest of the coming Victory loan campaign. The tanks were operated by returned soldiers.


BATTLESHIP FLOAT OF MARINE ELECTRICAL WORKERS IN PARADE in The Boston Globe, September 3, 1918, p. 7 (see news photograph below)—

One of the most striking features of the parade was the float of the Marine Electrical Workers of America—the Navy Yard local union. This was a model of a battleship, about 50 feet long and 20 feet high, with wireless cracking and guns shooting confetti.

Another attractive float was that of the Painters' Association from the Navy Yard, showing a camouflaged torpedo boat destroyer model, over which was hung the inscription, "This Is How We Fool the Kaiser's U-Boats."

Dazzle Ship Float in Boston Parade (1918)